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Keeping Children Safe: A Look at Seatbelts in School Buses

by  on  News & Resources

Seatbelts save lives, and drivers pay heavy fines if they or their passengers are caught unbuckled on the road. However, seatbelts have traditionally never been featured in school buses, which has been a point of confusion to many parents. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is recommending that all school buses install lap-shoulder seatbelts to keep young riders safe on the way to and from school.

Last month, NHTSA Administrator Mark R. Rosekind issued the announcement at a joint conference for the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS). In his speech, Rosekind stressed that while NHTSA is not declaring seatbelts a requirement for all U.S. school buses, the organization is doing its best to spread information about this safety feature and is urging school transportation services to take action.

Last year, NASDPTS suggested that all school buses add seatbelts, as long as the districts could afford to do so without requiring students to find alternative methods of transportation to school. In response, NAPT asked NHTSA to discuss why local school districts should be expected to add “optional equipment like seatbelts” to their buses, rather than find other ways to improve transportation safety. NAPT and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) also requested that NHTSA provide more research regarding how effective seatbelts are at preventing injury and promoting safety on school buses.

Crash Statistics

In his presentation, Rosekind provided crash statistics that demonstrate just how critical it is for drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts on the road. In the United States, traffic accidents cause 30,000 deaths each year, and nearly half of all those fatalities are caused or influenced by the fact that the person was not wearing a seatbelt. Additionally, nearly 70 percent of teen fatalities in car accidents are a result, at least partially, of teens not wearing seatbelts.

Safe driving campaigns stress the importance of wearing seatbelts for everyone, and often, school buses are left out of the conversation. Buckling up is important in vehicles that provide seatbelts, but, as Rosekind said, “Seatbelts save lives… How can we not want every child who rides a school bus to have the total safety afforded by three-point belts?” Given the statistics, NHTSA recommends them for every bus.

District-by-District Decisions

Despite the strong wording of Rosekind’s presentation, NHTSA has yet to make an official mandate on the issue. Local school districts and states will need to determine whether they can afford to add seatbelts to their buses and whether it makes financial sense to take that step. In the meantime, NHTSA will be updating its webpage for school bus safety and will take steps to improve data reports for school bus crashes, including information on distracted driving, illegal passing and speeding.

Keep Your Kids Safe

If your child has been injured in a school bus accident or collision, contact the Denver personal injury attorneys at Levine Law for a consultation today.